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The Dry

Based on Australian author Jane Harper’s multi-award winning 2016 debut novel, ‘The Dry’ is a mystery thriller making good use of its locations. Similar to the ‘Mystery Road’ films and TV series, the vistas seen add much atmosphere. Whilst characterisation and story are always paramount, visuals can aid in delivering clues and creating the mind-set in which the characters find themselves. With solid performances and direction, ‘The Dry’ is an absorbing movie sure to intrigue.

Twenty years after leaving his drought-stricken outback hometown, Federal Agent Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) returns to attend an old friend’s funeral. Discovering his friend allegedly killed his wife and child before taking his own life, Falk decides to stay to investigate the crime. While doing so, he reopens an old case where a teenage girl was mysteriously killed. Suspecting these cases are linked, Falk faces the town’s rage and prejudices with the steely zeal that has made him the best in his field.

Under Robert Connelly’s focussed direction, ‘The Dry’ is an engaging thriller. Falk isn’t one of those perfect TV detectives seen so often but one battling his own demons. Haunted by past ghosts, this unsettling remembrance of old crimes affects the way he handles the current one. This adds conflict with those he meets, thereby making ‘The Dry’ more interesting. Friends and foes may not be necessarily who they seem with the dusty township threatening to explode with buried secrets.

Lovers of whodunits should enjoy ‘The Dry’ with genuinely surprising plot twists. Bana turns in an excellent performance, as always as his imperfect hero putting the pieces of the crime and his life back together. The other star is the dazzling cinematography. The harsh, barren outback is beautifully captured, making itself a character witnessing the danger everyone faces.

As Australian thrillers go, ‘The Dry’ is a worthy entry. Australia tends to do thrillers quite well, often utilising striking locales to good effect. The first part of a series of Aaron Falk books, ‘The Dry’ will hopefully usher in a local movie franchise audiences will enthusiastically embrace.

Rating out of 10: 8

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The Nun

The ‘Conjuring’ horror series has spawned its own industry. Aside from the central ‘Conjuring’ films, there is the ‘Annabelle’ franchise and others like ‘The Nun’. Utilising a demon seen in ‘The Conjuring 2’, ‘The Nun’ tries to be more substantial than the rest. Mixing religious themes amongst the thrills, it’s a blend of a Hammer Horror flick and ‘The Exorcist’. Unfortunately it’s not as exciting as those efforts with the over reliance on current cinematic horror clichés truly a bad habit.

In Romania in 1952, a monastery is attacked by unseen forces after two nuns enter a tunnel to retrieve an ancient Christian relic. The evil unleashed wreaks havoc. The Vatican sends Father Burke (Demian Bichir) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) to investigate. Events quickly descend into chaos with wicked entity Valak (Bonnie Aarons) taking the form of a nun. The forces of good vs evil battle it out among the abbey’s shadowy walkways as saints and sinners vie for dominance.

Corin Hardy directs ‘The Nun’ with some degree of skill. The cinematography in the Romanian countryside is effective as it creates a consistently chilling atmosphere. The way Hardy utilises his camera shots to further craft an unsettling mood proves he has talent. The performances are quite good as well with Bichir and Farmiga making their roles more dimensional. Despite a few glaring plot holes, the story itself is reasonably involving, with the character’s religious conflicts providing interest.

Going against all this are endless lazy ‘jump-scares’, and loud, booming music. Seen in countless recent horror movies, these elements drag ‘The Nun’ into average territory. Aside from Hardy, those involved behind the scenes should have had more courage in presenting something fresh as audiences can appreciate genuine innovation. The ingredients are there for a creepy time, but more often than not, very little eventuates.

‘The Nun’ should have been much better. It’s ok enough for those wanting to be easily spooked, although more discerning horror fans may be disappointed. The film-makers may need to do penance for not going far enough with the tale as this unholy effort gradually deflates from its chastity of ideas.

Rating out of 10: 6

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